Marketing Automation Is Not Scary

By DB Hurley · PUBLISHED July 28, 2015 · UPDATED March 11, 2020

Most of you know me already, my name is Michael Babker, and I’m a fighter. That sounded a bit like I was starting an AA meeting. But if you do know me then you know that’s not a confession. It’s a statement of fact. Now I know some of you are laughing because you know I have a somewhat opinionated view on things. And you think when I say I’m a fighter you’re thinking about that aspect of my personality, but you know what I’m referring to, my past as a fighter in the United States Army. It was a refining part of my past and for those of you that maybe don’t know me, you soon will.

Yes, I was (am) a fighter, a warrior, a defender. You may also know that I am an analytical thinker, a data-driven developer, and a coding king. You do not think of me as a marketer. That’s fair, I don’t really think of myself as a marketer. It just ain’t my thing. But here I am and I have some cool things to share with you. You know it must be cool and it must be pretty great because it takes a lot for me to get outside of my comfort zone. So I hope you’ll listen and I am sure you’ll learn something as we look at why the topic of marketing automation is not scary.

If you’re like me then you probably need a good definition of what marketing automation even is before we can dig in deeper to why it’s not a scary idea. So here’s a working definition of marketing automation that we’ll use today as a base for what we discuss:


Mautic is a marketing automation software platform

Ok, so that’s a definition and, yeah it has some big words and maybe difficult to understand meaning. But that shouldn’t make it scary. The idea and practice of marketing automation is definitely not scary. In fact, let me tell you a story, I want to tell you about a time in my life that was scary. I want to tell you a war story.

I’d been in the military for several years. I’d even done a tour in Korea, now, I was back in the States and had just been told I would be deploying again. It was 2009 and I had just re-enlisted and requested Germany for my base. The unit I got assigned to greeted me with the news that we were being deployed, from Germany to Northern Afghanistan, an active combat zone in approximately 18 months. This was my first deployment to a fighting area and I was honestly a bit surprised it hadn’t happened sooner in my career considering when I joined. Because of this the actual thought of going wasn’t a big deal. But knowing that I was going to a combat zone and more specifically going to a country where exactly one year before a good friend of mine, Adam, had been stationed and subsequently lost his life in battle (Ironic right? Exactly a year to the day.) - well, that was more difficult.

Our unit was first to put boots on ground in this particular region because we were communications, and we had to get everything setup, there was 13 of us in the initial push, I was a newly appointed Sergeant and basically in charge of this group of first time deployments. This was less than half of a full platoon. We had to get the first round of communications up and running for everyone else that would be coming after us. And we had to do it with a skeleton crew. I’m talking about a lot of pressure here. But you want to know what worried me, or scared me the most? Of course you do! The unknown.


The unknown marketing automation

That’s right, it wasn’t so much the idea of a different country, or leading group of other newbies, or even being stationed in a combat zone. The most intimidating and somewhat terrifying part of the whole experience was what I didn’t know. That’s what’s truly scary. I’ll tell you more about that story in a little bit. I know you want to hear the end and how everything turned out, but let me get back to why I’m standing here in front of you and telling you one of my fears.

But I’m not alone in this type of fear. When I say the thing that worried me most was the unknown, this is actually quite common. I’m sure many of you here can think of sometime in your life when you were scared and the reason for your fear was not what you knew about a situation but what you didn’t know. I’m a big movie fan. So I’m going to use some quotes from different places when I think they are relevant. One of the greatest movie directors of all time, Alfred Hitchcock is famous for this quote:


no terror in the bang alfred hitchcock quote

Pretty true right? I mean that’s the intimidating part. But here’s a better quote, this one from M. Night Shyamalan:


Unknown Fears Marketing M Night

These directors are great. And you know what, for some reason the best movie directors always seem to understand how to build that suspense, and that terror. And I don’t even really like scary movies!

The unknown therefore is what is scary, the fear of the unknown is what keeps us from doing things; from accomplishing things.

So, when I say marketing automation is not scary I think you’ll probably agree. I’ve told you some stories from my life that are scary; and I’ve shared a few quotes about the root of fear. Now let’s turn our attention to our topic of marketing automation. If I want you to believe that this is not scary then I need to remove the unknown.

Let’s get to it! I want to give you a basic example of marketing automation, after that we’ll look quickly at a few common fears related specifically to marketing automation, and then lastly how you can get started.

Let’s look first at a basic example, we’ll call this Michael’s Web Shop, pretty creative name right? Hey, I never said I was creative. I said I was a coder so give me a break. Anyway Michael’s web shop builds websites, advanced components, plugins, and full applications for clients. (Side note: I’ve got a degree in web design…hard to believe right? I guess they’ll give those things to anyone!)


marketing automation and unqualified leads definition

Ok, so Michael’s Web Shop works hard at finding new leads. We try to find leads but it’s difficult. We have a form on our website where people can fill out their information and we’ll contact them. We’ve tried Google Adwords, we go to events, we pass out cards, we cold call people. Everything we can think of to generate business. But we’re working too hard. We’re spending far too much time on unqualified leads. We need something that will help us spend our time more effectively. We need marketing automation. Here’s the really easy five steps we take to set it up.


5 Easy Steps to Marketing Automation


tracking pixel marketing definition

Step One: Add Tracking Pixel

The first thing we need to do is to add our tracking pixel to our website. This tracking pixel is provided by Mautic. Think of it like Google Analytics, most everyone here is familiar with Google’s tracking pixel and how it works. It’s not really an image, but code that returns an image (after it collects information).

Anyways, this tracking pixel needs to be included on every page of our website so it can track the movement of every website visitor we have. You can do this by putting the pixel in your template file. After we have the tracking pixel we move to the next piece, the landing page.


Marketing Automation Landing Page

Step Two: Build a Landing Page

Here we want to create a landing page which we’ll use to funnel people to. Here’s the basic breakdown of a good landing page:


Marketing automation call to action

1. A strong, singular call to action.  This is usually a form. We’ll talk more about a form in the next step.

2. A clutter-free design. We want to make sure our landing page is not confusing and everyone who visits the page can easily understand what they are looking for and what they should do.

3. A minimal (absent) menu. Because this is a landing page where we want to keep the focus on our single call to action we want to minimize the likelihood that they will visit some other page and leave our landing page.

Ok, so that’s the second step, creating a great landing page, the third step is a big marketing piece. We want to actually learn more about our visitors. We want to create a form.


Create a form in marketing automation

Step Three: Create a Form

A form because we want to take those unknown leads (remember the visitors from the tracking pixel) and we want to collect more details about them. This is where the form is important. Too many fields and no one will want to fill it out, too few fields and we won’t get enough information. See I told you, these marketing type people are kinda creepy. But it makes sense, we want to collect information so we can continue to nurture and refine our leads before we contact them. This is where we get into the fourth step: building lead lists.


Building lead lists in marketing automation

Step Four: Building Lead Lists

Ok, man I am really getting deep into the world of marketing now. But oh well, no turning back at this point. Don’t hold this against me, remember I’m just an engineer. The next step we have to do here at Michael’s Web Shop is to define our lead lists. These are how we organize our leads into groups of people based on specific details of each lead. Lead lists can be built around the results of the form submissions or activity the user has taken. These lists can be created by hand, but remember, we want to save time so we want them to be built automatically. These lists serve a great purpose, because they’ll be used in our final step, sending emails.


Email marketing and sending emails

Step Five: Sending Emails

This last step in our process of implementing marketing automation is the part we will create and then rinse and repeat, over and over again. I like this part because it’s the most logical piece of the entire marketing mess. Here we create emails to send to our leads. We send these emails based on the lists they are on and the information they’ve given us. But this is all automated and all completely logic. It involves a very logical programming concept, if/then. Whew, now I’m starting to feel at home. These emails are created as part of a campaign.


Campaigns in marketing automation

Ok, so that’s what we’re talking about when we say marketing automation. We want to make things all happen automatically and based on pre-defined triggers. Then we can sit back and wait for qualified leads. How do we know a lead is qualified? Easy! They’ve completed your campaigns, they’ve opened your emails, they’ve filled out your forms, and they’ve continued to express interest in what you offer. (Yes, I said forms…you’ll want to create additional forms that collect different information on different landing pages…lots of little details all added together to build a lead profile).

And that is how Michael’s Web Shop creates a marketing automation process to save time, improve lead nurturing, and ultimately increase profitability. It’s not really that hard and now you see everything that’s involved. There are no real unknowns any more. We’ve looked at every piece and we’ve seen exactly how it works. See, no monsters under the bed…and nothing to be scared of.

Three Common Fears

But just as in the movies, sometimes just knowing what’s involved does not mean every fear is removed. There are always questions and things that can be scary so let’s look quickly at a few common fears. We’ll look at three specific fears and then we’ll solve each of them.


First marketing automation fear

First fear, the worry that you have no idea where to start. This is a very common first fear. Think about it, you’ve just learned about a new system, marketing automation, that you don’t know too much about, and remember the fear of theunknown? Well, now you know a little bit but you’re hesitant because you don’t know where you should begin. That’s completely ok. Here’s the solution: Start with the basics.

Nobody said you have to go jump into the deep-end of the pool. In fact, it’s probably better that you don’t. Not everyone grows up like me (down in Florida, living on a beach, always in the water). It’s usually best to start with the simple steps. One great way to do this is with very simple email marketing. How many are familiar with MailChimp, or Constant Contact? If you’ve used these tools then you know how to send a bulk email or a newsletter. This is a great way to get started. Don’t worry about everything that marketing automation can do. Just collect email addresses and setup a campaign that sends email. There’s nothing to it.


Second marketing fear no skills

Second fear, the worry that you don’t have the skills to create landing pages. Now I already shared with you that I have a degree in web design. Does that mean I can design web pages and successful landing pages? Um…probably not. Ask David, he’ll tell you, I should not be in charge of creating a landing page. But there is something I can do. I can use a pre-existing template. I can start with a framework already available and I can customize it easily enough. Seriously, give me Bootstrap, or some other starting point and I can make a page do what it needs to do…it might not be the prettiest, but it will work. So there’s the solution for this fear: use existing resources. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Build on things that have already been done.


Third marketing fear creating campaigns

Third fear, the worry that you can’t create a good campaign. Ok, so this is probably the biggest thing for me personally. Cause if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a dozen times….I am not a marketer. So given that I’m not really a marketing type of person how on earth am I supposed to create a great campaign, shoot, how am I supposed to even create a good campaign? This fear is a common one. Especially after we’ve looked at what marketing automation is, how to get started, and how to create pages. Now what?! What if I don’t do this right? What if I can’t get people to successfully complete my campaigns. This solution may be less formal but still easy to follow: ask questions, read discussions, trial-and-error.

Did you catch that? Trial and error! It’s ok to fail. It’s ok, as long as you learn from your mistakes. We all make mistakes (unless you’re me of course). But I’ve heard that everyone makes mistakes. So as long as you learn from the things that aren’t working and make improvements it’s ok. Every marketer is constantly improving their campaigns.

So you have no excuses, we’ve cleared up the unknown about what marketing automation is. We’ve looked at three common fears and how to solve them. Simply put, you have no more excuses. You have to get started.


Alfred Hitchcock Scariest Moment Starting

Stephen King, the wise sage of scary movies. What a great quote. I honestly don’t know if he’s a great director or just a creepy dude with a sick and twisted outlook on life. Either way, this quote is perfect because it’s true. It is scary right before you start. When I was landing in northern Afghanistan, unsure about what lay ahead of me, this was a scary moment. If you haven’t ever been in that situation you probably can’t even imagine that feeling. Trust me, it’s not a fun experience. But together we can conquer this fear.


How to start with marketing automation

So let’s look now at how to start. We’re going to break this down into three easy steps. See just saying three easy steps, already it feels like this will be simple! Ok, let’s dive in.


Starting Marketing Automation

The first step to getting started is simply to: Identify a Purpose. Before we can start creating our campaigns, crafting our emails, or even building our forms we have to start with what we want to accomplish. What is our purpose for all of this? And no, making more money doesn’t count. Of course we all want more money…if you say you don’t….well, I don’t believe you. Dig deeper. What is your purpose for what you do? What are the problems you want to solve? What does your ideal client look like? You gotta start here. Start with the purpose you want to accomplish because once you know your goal you can create a plan to get there.


Create a marketing automation plan

And that brings us quickly to the second step: Create a Plan. Once you know your purpose you can then work out a plan to accomplish that purpose. You can create a series of steps to get to your goal. Simple, easy-to-measure steps. Your plan should take an unknown lead into a known lead and a qualified potential customer. This means, from a first point of contact all the way through to someone who is ready to buy what you’re selling. Your plan is important because from this plan you can then build your basic setup.


Basic marketing automation setup

Building Your Basic Setup is the combination of all the the features of your marketing process. This is where you finally get into setting things up in your marketing automation tool. Remember, you’ve already identified your purpose and created your plan, so now it’s simply building the pieces that relate to that plan. We went through a basic example before with Michael’s Web Shop, so you already have a bit of an idea what all is involved. Here’s a few more specifics just to get you started. Why do I keep getting suckered into this kind of thing?

Basic Marketing Automation Setup

Ok, here’s what you need to do: Create Your Lead Fields - these lead fields are the unique aspects of your leads you want to collect. This is how you make your leads relevant to your particular business. Next, Create A List - this list is where you organize your leads, maybe based on the lead fields you just created, maybe based on other characteristics. Create A Form - Now that you know what you want to collect from your leads and how you are organizing them, you need to build a form to collect this information…remember, you might not want to collect all of it at once. Build a couple forms and use them at different places and different times. Now you’re ready to Create Emails - Here you want to have automated email that will be sent to your leads and provide them with good information. They may be interested in learning more about what you do, they may be interested in a particular subject or topic. These emails are just your way of staying in touch with them and being available. Don’t be obnoxious (yeah, we all know those marketing people that are just way way too obnoxious). Be helpful. Be timely. But please don’t be a nuisance. I’m warning you. Ok, I’ve done your basic setup building for you. But it’s up to you to make it personal and specific to your business. No, I’m not doing that for you too…c’mon you gotta do something here!


Stephen King Be Brave Quote

Ok, now we’re here at an incredible JoomlaDay event, I mean seriously, I go to bunches of events, I speak at bunches of events (seriously don’t get why they keep inviting me back!) But anyways, since we’re here at a Joomla event you would probably like to see how you can tie in your marketing automation with Joomla. This is kinda cool. Mautic has a plugin available specifically for Joomla. See, I can’t help myself - I just keep making your life easy. What does this plugin do? Well I’m glad you asked. This little bit of code does cool stuff, it will automatically add the tracking pixel to your website, and maybe more importantly it will let you dynamically inject a form from your marketing automation directly into your Joomla content.

All you have to do is drop a shortcode in place: {mauticform ID} - see that’s all you have to do. Crazy simple. Put that code into any content item and Mautic will automatically replace it with the form fields themselves. That is as easy as it gets. Now your marketing automation exists directly within your Joomla website. Any page on your site can be a landing page. I told you it was cool.

Now we’ve been through conquering the fear of the unknown, we’ve looked at how to get started and even more specifically how you can get started in Joomla, the most powerful CMS in the world. There is nothing left to do now but grow. Take the knowledge you now hold and apply it. I like to say rinse and repeat, because that’s all it is. You’re doing the same thing again but refined and improved based on your experiences. As you grow you become better and more proficient at identifying what works best for your business. Growing is not scary. Growing is exciting. This is where you take your knowledge and become an expert. It takes time, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Don’t be afraid to grow. Be confident.

Concluding My Story

That brings me back to my army story I started sharing earlier. Obviously I’m standing here in front of you, I made it home safely. I overcame my fears. I landed in northern Afghanistan and immediately began working on my tasks. I started small, checking the shipments to make sure we had everything we needed to do our job. See, that’s an easy task. I knew what needed to be done and I started small. Then, the next thing done was to work through building out the com’s, designing the systems, overseeing the work of the other troops I was in command of, I was designing a plan and a process. Then, I began the task of organizing information. And slowly the fears subsided. I’d be crazy to say I wasn’t still concerned…any time you’re in a combat zone you’re going to be on high alert, no matter what you do. But it’s manageable. I overcame my fears and finally when my unit was recalled I left with a sense of accomplishment, I could relax, and I could enjoy myself.

You can do the same. No, you’re not in a combat zone like I was. No, you don’t have the same circumstances or burdens weighing down on you, and you fears are different…but they are still very real. Your fears, though different, are no less important. Marketing and marketing automation though should not be one of those fears. After what you’ve heard today I am sure you will feel much more equipped and prepared to face the unknown, to dispel the fear and to achieve great things in your businesses.

I’ll leave you with one last quote from a recent movie, no I haven’t seen this one, but there’s a movie called Inside Out, in this animated film we are given a front row seat to the emotions of a little girl. One of those emotions is fear. After one particularly difficult experience fear speaks up and gives the following line which I think is the perfect ending to my talk here today:


InsideOut Fear Success Quote



"This slideshow requires JavaScript." - Do there should be an visible slideshow under that txt? For me it shows up just black square.
Michael Babker

In reply to by Pete


Hi Pete, Yes, there are a few graphics under the "Basic Marketing Automation Setup" heading that are part of a gallery plugin that looks to not function right without JavaScript. Those graphics are slides 25-28 from the corresponding SlideShare at